THE DOS AND DON’TS AND THE WHAT IF?
TIPS FOR PRACTICING YOGA IN OPEN AIR
By Sinziana San.
You might have heard about taking yoga off the mat, but how about taking your yoga mat outside for some outdoor yoga in the park? Summer is here and opportunities to practice under the blue sky are plenty. Maybe you’ve already followed a yoga class in the park, on the beach, or even on a rooftop terrace; maybe you’re tempted, but don’t quite know how to approach it. The next few lines will help you enjoy your experience even more, encourage you to give it a try, or just offer you some insight on what to expect.
The thought of it is not appealing? Well, guess what? Nobody is here to force you to try! Stop reading, move on, stick with what you know. But the idea of combining two of the best things there are – practicing yoga and open air – is talking to you? Are you ready for some outdoor yoga in the park. I have only a few words to say: Light and fun. Less pressure, more play. Affordable. This being said, let’s see how we can prepare and make the experience better.
What do you need to bring for a yoga class outside the studio?
First, you need your curiosity and interest to try something different. If you have a regular studio or personal practice, yoga outdoors will not feel quite the same. It’s a special way to explore the practice. As we’re on an uneven surface, you’ll have to explore with different engagement of the muscles, more awareness, slower pace, more mindfulness in getting in and also out of the postures. It might also add a different dimension to your self inquiry, help you discover weak points or strengths you were blind to.
Mat or no mat? How about props? For a class outside most teachers will not be able to provide you with a mat or props. You might want to bring your own or use a yoga towel, a blanket, or a sheet instead; or, why not, try it directly on the grass/sand/deck. There are people paying extra for doing yoga on special surfaces (have you heard of SUP yoga?). If you prefer a mat, consider it might get a bit dirty, so choose one that is easy to clean. If you’re using props, a rolled towel or blanket can help you just the same.
Sunscreen, water, hat. The weather is nice and you would like to work on your tan while enjoying the practice, but you want to stay away from sun strokes, sun burns or dehydration. Consider a reusable water bottle 😉 If the class is in the evening, the temperature might suddenly drop and you might feel cold during your relaxation, so a light scarf or shirt to cover yourself for savasana could come in handy.
Money. Most outdoor classes are donation based, sometimes with a suggested amount. The studio organizing and the teacher delivering the class still invest their time and energy into offering the practice. Think about making a contribution according to your possibilities. Even though you are not requested to pay the fee of a drop in class, consider rewarding the teacher for the exchange of energy that has taken place. A good guideline could be to reward the teacher according to how (much better) you feel.
What you do NOT need for outdoor yoga in the park: any strong smells (they get stronger with heat, movement and sweat), jewelry (way harder to find if you accidentally drop it in the grass or sand), phone and instant messenger conversations (duh…), full belly (allow at least 2h after a meal). Oh, and you do not need to be late 😉
Even though the door doesn’t lock when the practice starts, being there from the first few minutes of the practice is important. That’s when you get to know the teacher, the theme of the class, establish that connection to yourself before you start moving, settle in. Also, you don’t to disturb the other yogis as you arrive.
The WHAT IF’S
What you do not bring, but might be there: dirt, noise, bugs, pollen and possible poisoning plants (nettles, poison ivy, thistles), unpredictable weather (gusts of wind, random rain showers), passers by ranging from just curious, to admiring, to plain rude. If that is the scenery, is your practice going to be any less? Not necessarily. Here’s how to make the best of your outdoor yoga in the park session:
- Make sure you choose a spot that is not covered in trash leftover by other “nature lovers” less concerned with environment than you. If need be, pick up what needs to be picked up and consider the good gesture your karma yoga.
- Clear away stones and sticks, a pebble under your back might feel like a giant rock during savasana. Check the weather forecast and be prepared to finish your session before the designated time.
- Bugs crawling all over – well, in all fairness, they were there first, so be respectful of their habitat. Citronella oil or other natural insect repellent, long sleeves and pants would offer you protection.
- You find strangers a bit too involved? it’s true, people will look. Sometimes comment: “that looks painful” or “that looks like so much fun”. Notice your reactions to one or the other attitude. You’re there for your own experience, try to not get caught up in imaginary thoughts about anyone’s impressions. Are you there to perform or are you there to practice?
All of the above can turn onto opportunities for your practice: is your focus on your breath? One can always practice releasing attachment to distractions and sounds. All in all, everyone’s comfort levels are different, so you may have to decide which battles are most important and if an outdoor practice works for you. With a little humility, humor, creativity, you can find that sweet spot though, and it will be well worth it.
Questions, comments, disagreements on outdoor yoga in the park? We are always happy to hear from you!
The Brussels Yoga Loft offers their weekly class in the park on Sundays at 11.00am. Meeting place is under the arches in Parc Ciqnuantenaire. The class will always take place if the temperature is more than 17 degrees Celsius and it is not raining. The outdoor classes are also donation based. Feel free to give whatever the exchange of energy with the teacher is worth to you.